Friday, September 11, 2015

Dragon Con 2015: Post-Con Thoughts & Review

Dragon Con 2015 was amazing, and thanks to our Epbot meetup and the official DCon app, I had nearly a hundred separate reader encounters over the course of the weekend. A new record! I gave out around 95 of the new Epbot pins, and thankfully didn't run out 'til the very last day. There were so many laughs and hugs and even tears, and I'm grateful to every single one of you.

I kept our schedule extra light this year to account for all the socializing, and spent each night in the main Marriott lobby armed with my camera. John cosplayed 3 of the 4 nights, so he was equally occupied, being mobbed by photographers. (No cosplay for me this year; I left that to John!)

Our new Figment made John's Dreamfinder by far the most popular cosplay either of us have ever done. I felt bad for our friends and family trying to get anywhere with us, because we often couldn't take two steps without hearing, "FIGMENT!!" - and as soon as John stopped, more people would come running. Between that and so many Epbot/CW fans finding us, John and I felt like rock stars. (A nice memory to hang on to the next time I'm picking up cat puke.)

As always, seeing everyone react to John was my favorite part. Five minutes in as Dreamfinder, we came across a lady who literally jumped up and down and screamed. Ha! Plus it worked out great for me, since I could just wander off with my camera while John was stuck in one place. :D

Claptrap also got rave reviews, though with significantly less tears and requests for hugs. It wasn't easy navigating the crowds with a one-wheeled robot, of course, so John decided to stash him back in the car late Friday afternoon. We got all the way to the car, though, when John changed his mind - and was ultimately glad he did, since that night we stayed 'til after 1AM and had so. much. fun.

My friends Christie and Robyn were with us as a gender-swapped Handsome Jack and Mordecai, so together they all made a stellar Borderlands group:

When we first decided to do a gender-swapped Borderlands group, I was supposed to be Salvadore. Then Figment happened. Maybe some day?
Here's a shot of the sisters I took at the Borderlands meetup earlier:

  Their cell-shading is ridiculously good. I am in awe.

Just as we were about to call it a night on Friday, a woman spotted Claptrap and awarded John a Golden Ticket for a free professional photo shoot downstairs - for the whole group! So of course we had to stay for that.

We stayed away during Saturday's parade, waiting 'til 1pm to venture anywhere near downtown - but the rest of my family made the mistake of taking the Marta in that morning, hoping to make it to an early panel before the parade began.

I say "mistake" because the crowds were so suffocating that my mom - a former RN with nerves of steel - tells me she had the first panic attack of her entire life, and my dad had to physically hang on to a chain link fence to keep from being swept away and trampled. The mob was trying to break down construction fences around them just to have a place to go, since the Marta underground kept funneling more and more people up onto the street, and there just. wasn't. room.

Street view of the parade, taken by my friend John Strangeway.

I'm appalled to hear the parade crowds have gotten this bad (my older brother and his girlfriend were also there - for their very first DCon, natch), so from now on I'll be advising everyone to stay completely away from Dragon Con on Saturday morning, even if you're not trying to see the parade. It's just not worth it, guys, trust me!

Ok, back to the positive stuff.

I mentioned in my Reflections post how happy I am in the madness that is the Marriott lobby, and I realized this year that the dull roar of the crowd is remarkably soothing, almost like a white noise machine. So long as I wasn't trying to get anywhere in particular, it never really bothered me to be trapped by the crowd, and I was able to just live in each moment, soaking it all up.

 The Marriott lobby.
 (There are actually three levels to it; this is just the top-most one.)

It also helps that no one in the lobby is in much of a hurry to get anywhere; most are just standing/shuffling around talking, drinking, and people-watching.

We stayed 'til at least midnight each night, and I would go for long stretches separated from John, not even knowing where he was on the floor. Usually that kind of thing would spike my anxiety, but I never felt panic. In fact, I didn't need any anxiety meds the whole trip! I can't explain it, but I'm incredibly grateful.

That contented, calm bubble allowed me to do lots of non-introverty things, too, like find and fangirl over Norm of Tested, The Doubleclicks, and cosplayer Ryan Wells. Plus I was almost coherent while presenting our custom Pop figure to David Hewlett. I think talking with so many Epbot peeps kept me on a constant socializing high; I went from one conversation to the next almost seamlessly all day, every day, so it didn't seem strange to strike up a conversation with people I admire online, but have never met.

There was only one celeb I was interested in getting a picture with, though. This guy: 

 Sweet Staypuft!! 

(He's patting my head here. I think I scared his handler a little, since I came barreling in for a hug.)

By Sunday the constant emotional high was taking its toll, and I found myself getting a little weepy at the Doubleclicks' concert. Kind of a happy/stressed/overloaded weepy. Then another fan found me, and she stayed with me and my mom and laughed with us through the rest of the concert, and I was good to go again.

They all demanded he get in the picture. :D

We stayed the latest on Monday we ever have, since that was our first chance to see the vendor rooms. As a result, I got a new dragon friend:

(She's supposed to sit on your shoulder, and has a little cable attached so you can move her head.)

... and then we didn't get back home to Orlando until midnight. Worth it.

Oh, and topping off the awesome? Neither of us caught the con crud! I didn't know that was even possible!

Thanks again to all of you who helped make Dragon Con our best yet! Now stay tuned, because cosplay photos... ARE COMING.


  1. Thank you so much for posting that picture of my group with John! The only version I have is a slightly blurry phone pic and this was one of my favorite moments of the weekend. I'm so glad I had the chance to run into you multiple times :D. Happy Friday!

    (Sidenote: I had no idea how crazy it was during the parade and I feel terrible for your Mom. I never bother going because even 8 years ago it was a bit much and you never got to see anything...)

  2. No Con Crud?????!!!!??? Srsly??? WOW! We are never too old (or young) to learn something new about ourselves. What we like, don't like, what we can do, can't do, or handle. I'm so glad you and John had such a great time. I am vicariously feeling your high and good vibes. Thank you for sharing, Jen and John.
    Maureen S

  3. I was the Harley in the Grecian DC group and I was so excited to see the Dreamfinder and Figment. Figment has been one of my favorite Disney characters for my entire life. To this day, I still make people go on the Epcot ride with me whenever I go to the parks. <-Me with the Dreamfinder and Figment as a little girl

  4. NEVER EVER EVER get off at Peachtree Center on Saturday morning unless it's obscenely early (ok, not too husband got off there just before 8 and didn't mention any issues this year). Go up to Civic Center at the least. It's a farther walk, but so much less stressful. Going up to Civic Center, that end of the parade route is more passable...until the parade is done, then it's everyone trying to move and Yuck. But still not as awful as the Peachtree Center end of the route. I've been taking my kids to the parade the past several years. I made the Peachtree Center mistake the first year and will not do it again. Of course, we're also camped out on the curb (next to a bike lane this year..SO nice!) at 8 am playing cards and watching the pre-parade parade.

    1. Oooh, good to know, for anyone out there braving the parade next year! Thanks!

  5. I got teary-eyed reading this because I'm so happy for you!! It is one of my life goals to meet you and John in person. And hopefully I'll be in costume too :)

  6. Jen, it was so great to meet you and John at the tail end of the EPBOT meetup on Thursday! I saw John, said "Dreamfinder!" and then had to stop because I got choked up. I love Dreamfinder and Figment. Thought you'd enjoy this side-by-side comparison of the first time I met Dreamfinder, around 1985, and my reunion with him at DragonCon: I'm taller and look a little different, but my smile is just as big now as it was then! Dreamfinder Then and Now

  7. No con crud? Wow, you are so blessed! I'm currently nursing a runny nose and slightly scratchy throat. Totally worth it, though. I had so much fun at my first D*Con and was super-thrilled to finally get to meet you and John! Definitely one of the major highlights of my weekend. I'm just glad I didn't melt into a puddle of quivering fan-girl at the meet-up! :D I lucked out on Saturday. I avoided the parade, per your advice in your survival post and knowing that it would be on Youtube eventually. I stayed at one of the overflow hotels that had Con shuttle access, so I took that right away at 8 in the morning and went to the Marriott for a panel at 11:30. They let us start lining up extra early, so it was totally worth it for the great seat I got. Completely got to avoid any parade crowd, and I was later told that the parade this year wasn't as good as prior years anyway, so sounds like I didn't miss much other than masses of unruly crowds. I'm so glad you had such a great time and made it through the weekend without any issues! So excited to see your cosplay photos!

  8. I was stranded in the Westin lobby with many others on Saturday after getting off MARTA, and after reading about your parents' experience, I think I got pretty lucky! I totally agree though - I gave up on the parade after my first DragonCon, and I won't even attempt to get downtown before 1 pm next year. I think unless you are marching in the parade, it is totally not worth the hassle.

    I have been working on my anxiety issues too, and I was so happy to discover the crowds didn't get to me this year. I even plucked up the courage to meet Felicia Day and get my book signed (she is as funny and wry and approachable as you would hope). This was my 4th DragonCon and easily my favorite.

  9. Glad this DragonCon was so awesome for you! It was pretty great for me, though different being pregnant ... We actually got to experience the full breadth of the dealer hall for the first time EVAH - but we went Saturday during the parade, and had a bit of an adventure getting there. We walked through the MARTA area under Peachtree, but the escalators up stopped working and then let all the crowds through the "train only" area. It was a good thing, but we came up a little further down Peachtree than we wanted to and had to orient ourselves towards the Westin and America's Mart. If you can tough out GETTING there, the dealer hall is just lovely during the parade. Somehow, my husband and I did not catch the con crud either!

  10. Happy to hear this Dragon Con went so well for both of you! I neeed to go to one sometime. I am on the other coast, though, so we will see...

    -Just Andrea

  11. You got lucky! I have several FB friends who are all currently dealing with DC con crud.

  12. Hi Jen,

    In my RSS feed-reader there's an ad at the top of your page that looks like it's being inserted by something nefarious.

    1. Ruh-roh, can you give us any more details? And maybe e-mail them to John at comments(at)cakewrecks? He's our ad trouble-shooter.

  13. SHOULDER DRAGON!!! I bought one for my son last October at the Texas Renaissance Festival, and he wore it while trick-or-treating as a wizard. People were freaking out when the dragon moved it's head around. They are SO COOL. :-D

    Glad Dragon Con was such a success!!!!!

  14. SO happy to read this! I'm really glad you both had an incredible time and got to meet so many fans. John looks perfect as Dreamfinder, and I can't even believe the amazingness of your Figment.

    I really loved seeing Destiny's and Beth's photos as kids (in the comments above) with Dreamfinder and Figment. I saw Dreamfinder and Figment twice during visits to Epbot in the 80's, but unfortunately never had my photo taken with them. I sure wish I had now so that I'd have a pic to share.

    And, YAY, for not having any anxiety issues while there and not catching the con crud! You're invincible! And could you possibly be any cuter in that photo with Staypuft?! Ranks right up there with Borg Baby on the level of SQUEEE!

    I feel terrible that your parents had such a horrible experience on Saturday. That's really scary and awful. I'm glad they're okay.

    Looking SO forward to seeing more photos!


  15. Did you go to the Vintage Vogue fashion show on Friday? My friend Travis MC'd it and has posted pics. Amazing costumes!

    1. I did, yes, and the official DCon photographer let me stand right next to her, so I got all the shots she did! I'll be posting those later on - still have SO much to go through and edit.

  16. So happy to hear you had a great time!

  17. I went to my first convention this weekend and had a blast. I wasn't going to be brave enough to go until I found one of the artists you've featured before and just had to get some of his work. It was incredibly cool to talk to him in person which I couldn't have done that with an Etsy order. While I don't think I'm up for a trip to Dragon Con yet, I am totally looking forward to attending more conventions.

  18. I had wondered if John was cross-playing with Claptrap. Thanks for letting us know. And thank Steampunk Boba Fett for the high view of the parade.

  19. Just want to apologize again for basically assaulting you as you came into the WoF, I was just stupid excited to actually catch you! Thank you for the DW Epbot pin, and the surreptitious pic you let me take :D Couldn't get away without visual proof! Although my husband and I were only there the one day, this was our first foray into the world of D*C and I'm glad we went on what seems to be the one of the better years.

  20. I'm so glad you had a great time! I missed going this year. Is cell shading how they painted their clothes? If so, that's really cool! I've never seen anything like that! Love your new little dragon. I almost bought a little dragon last year, but decided it was too expensive. Three days later I was kicking myself for not getting it. Glad you went for it.:-)

  21. Do you know how jealous I am you didn't get con crud!? My room got hit hard this year.

    I am bummed I didn't get to see Claptrap in person, but at least I caught you guys Thursday night. It was super fun talking to you!

    I also find DCon crowds weirdly soothing, and I am a super anxious person. It's some weird nerd magic.

  22. Protip avoiding con crud:

    Don't touch your face. Ever. Unless you've just washed your hands.
    That's how I've been avoiding it since 2012.

    It's also a tip from Adam Savage so it's gotta be good.

  23. I went with some friends for Saturday only (they have full 4 day passes). My friends suggested getting there a bit early (we drove in). We skipped the parade altogether and went straight to the vendor hall. We only had to wait about 20 min to get in, and it wasn't supper crowded that early. By the time we finished they and ate, walking out to the other locations was crowded but not panic-inducing. We'll probably do that again next year. Glad you had fun, sorry I didn't get to see you!

  24. SHERLOCK T SHIRT!!!!!!!!!

    Tiny P Elephant

  25. I am so glad you had a good time. Those crowds.. even on the not-so-bad days.. would have me clawing the walls. I want to find my corner and just hide just looking at them!

  26. We tried the parade back in 2005 and it was horrible even then. People would push and shove to get to the front. I would also recommend avoiding it at all costs.

  27. Hi!
    It was so great to meet you this year! I have to agree that the parade crowds have gotten more and more terrible as the years have gone on. This was my 8th Dragon*Con and the first time I skipped the parade.

    My BF and I decided to hit the vendor hall that morning and then head to a panel at 11:30 in the Marriott. It took us 45 minutes to figure out how to get through the crowds and get across the street to make the panel. Never doing that again. I should have just slept in!

    I'm sad that I missed Figment (the crowds bothered me a lot this year, so I stayed close to the hotel room once night fell, too many drunk people) but I'm glad I got to see Claptrap!

    Due to my new found issues with crowds, I didn't get that many pictures this year, so I can't wait to see your pictures post!

  28. I think I need to go to DragonCon again in the near future. I went three years in a row and loved it, but my energy was sapped. I've recharged!

    I met you and John on my second DragonCon and got a wonderful pin featuring DarthVader riding a My Little Pony with a Death Star cutie mark. I may have seemed a little deranged because I had been sleeping in a lounge chair in a hotel lobby after surviving a terrible bout of food sickness all morning. Bumping into you guys made me feel so much better, but I looked like death warmed over in the photo my friend snapped of us.
    I'm so glad that you had such a great DragonCon this year!

  29. I just have to ask ... Are those dragons available online somewhere???

    It's awesome!!

  30. I'm so glad you guys had a good time! What a difference a year has made for you and your anxiety, right? :) It must feel so good! xo

  31. I've been in the parade for the past two years, so recently I've only seen the huge crowds as a spectator. When I last watched the parade in 2013 it was crazy after it was over. I have never had problems with crowds before and I can usually navigate them very well (I sometimes lose my friends behind me in the process...), but I got very scared and nervous being in that crowd after the parade was over. I somehow made myself over to the Peachtree Center and was able to get inside to calm down. After that I swore of watching the parade. However, being in the parade means an early wake up call and walking in the heat in a costume really wears you out for the rest of the day. I think next year I will just stay in my room and watch it on DragonCon TV :)

  32. Seconding the Civic Center stop. Unlike Peachtree Center it is just below street level with one small escalator/stairs up to the street. No corners to navigate and it is not blocked in by any building. Aside from a little bit of sun it is a quiet walk and you just keep straight to get to Baker St.

    Sounds like MARTA needs a traffic plan though. I've been in lots of cities with transit changes/advisories for specific days and times.

    PS: *heart* your Figment so much! Amazing!

  33. Your little dragon looks very Dark Crystal-esque, at least to me. I love it!


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